Jace Carlton
Performing Songwriter - Freelance Writer / Photojournalist - Poet - Author

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Secrets of Songwriting
The Secrets of Songwriting
Leading Songwriters Reveal How To Find
Inspiration & Success
Susan Tucker
Reviewed by Jace Carlton
Originally published in
The Songwriter's Connection  -  October  2003

She's done it again!
  Unbelievable!  I've been waiting seven years for Susan Tucker to write this book and it was well worth the wait!  You HAVE to buy this book!  NO!  Don’t just buy it!  Absorb it!  Live it!  Read it over and over and over, because every time you read it you're going to discover some new secret that will move your writing along tremendously!

Let's jump into the "Way Back Machine"

The very first book review I wrote for The Songwriter's Connection was Susan's best seller, "The Soul of the Writer: Intimate Interviews with Successful Songwriters".  Intimate is exactly what it was.  When I met Susan at the Northern California Songwriter's Conference (now West Coast Songwriter's) a few years ago I shared with her how unique her book was.

Over the first chapter or so I kept flipping to the back of the book where the songwriters Susan had interviewed had their photos and bios.  I studied them and then I'd go back to read some more, trying to picture in my mind from the bios who was answering each question.  Finally I stopped reading the book, spent the next day or so going over and over the bios until I felt I knew each of the songwriters intimately and then began reading the book again.  What a difference!

The format of the book made it feel like I was sitting in my own living room asking the questions myself and having each of the songwriters share their secrets with me.  What a rush!  A private audience with some of the best in the business!  I told Susan I couldn't wait for Part 2 to be written, even submitting a dozen names to her of whom I'd love to see in the sequel.  I wasn't disappointed ... five of those songwriters are here in "The Secrets of Songwriting" and the other eight are very worthy additions.  (Perhaps Susan will include the others in Part 3?  HINT!)

Passion Restrained?  It' SO Hard!!!

OK, let's reverse that Way Back Machine and come back to the present.  My wife, Kathi, has a joke, "Never ask Jace what time it is because he's likely to tell you how to make a watch". As excited and passionate as I am about "The Secrets of Songwriting" it would be SO easy for me to go into great detail about all the secrets you’ll discover, but that wouldn’t be fair, now would it?  Besides, everyone will come away from reading this book with their own discoveries, and that’s the way it should be.

But on with the review, otherwise the publisher won’t send me my check.  (Hey, do I get royalties for this, too?  Just checking.)

The Perfect Sequel

As I've already indicated "The Secrets of Songwriting" is the perfect sequel to "The Soul of the Writer", but it’s not necessary to have read "Soul" first in order to fully enjoy "Secrets".  It clearly stands on its own.  Susan's done a wonderful job of getting each of her very willing interviewees to open up and share what they do to keep the Muse alive and well.

They share stories about how they decided to make songwriting a career, and what it takes to keep the creativity going, how important discipline is, how they handle writer's block, rejection, their "editor's voice", and the roller coaster ride of a career in songwriting.  What about the advantages or disadvantages of co-writing?  How intimidating is that blank sheet of paper?  Where do they get their continuous flow of ideas?  And plenty more.

Who Wrote That?

You may or may not know the songwriter's names, but I'm sure you know their hits such as Brooks & Dunn's "My Heart Is Lost To You", John Berry's "Change My Mind", The Backstreet Boys' "Back To Your Heart", Toby Keith's "We Were In Love", "Dream Walking" and "How Do You Like Me Now?", John Michael Montgomery's "I Love The Way You Love Me", Reba McEntire's "Little Rock" and "Till You Love Me", Chely Wright's "Single White Female", Martina McBride's "Independence Day" and Faith Hill's "The Secret of Life", Trisha Yearwood's "The Song Remembers When", Ronnie Milsap's "Stranger In My House" and Bonnie Raitt's "I Can't Make You Love Me", Collin Raye's "In This Life", Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance", Phil Vasser's "Another Day In Paradise", Tim McGraw's "Grown Men Don’t Cry".  The list goes on seemingly forever, such is the talent we’re talking about here.

So what make's these songwriter's so successful?  Well, there are more differences than common denominators.  We all have a style that works for us, it's just a matter of finding a groove and going with it.  And as we discover that what works for a particular songwriter is similar to or even exactly what works for us, it gives us encouragement to keep on writing, and encouragement is a BIG part of this business.

"We all need somebody to believe in us"

Chuck Cannon credits his early success to producer Marshall Morgan.  "He got interested in me.  He was my champion.  We all need somebody to believe in us.  You need someone that isn’t just telling you what you want to hear, but believes in your talent, and is urging you to develop your talent.  Everyone needs someone like that."

How many times in books, conferences and elsewhere have we heard the advise, "In order to have a hit you have to find a new way to say what's already been said before.  You have to find a new way to say, "I love you."  Well, Bob DiPiero likes to look at it this way:

"Everything's been said before, but I've never said it.  This is my take on what everybody's already said.

"There's only one me and, as a writer, that's a powerful statement.  That gives you the unique opportunity to say something that's never been said before because you're saying it in your way.

"Yeah, everything's been said before, and there are the four basic colors.  Why paint a picture because they've used all the same colors?  It's your version of those mixtures of colors that matters."

A Treasure Trove Of Ideas

It's been said that if you want to be successful in a particular thing just model someone else who's already doing it successfully.  They can show you the way as well as help you to avoid some of the pitfalls.  "The Secrets of Songwriting" has such a wealth of guidance you can't help but find a treasure trove of ideas to model.

As I said at the beginning of this review, don't just buy this book.  Absorb it!  Live it!  Read it over and over and over, because every time you read it you're going to discover some new secret that will move your writing along tremendously!

I hope it doesn't take Susan another seven years until Part 3 comes along.  Who knows?  Someone reading either "The Secrets of Songwriting" or its prequel, "The Soul of the Writer" just might find their own success.  Perhaps enough success to be included in Part 3.

Maybe you?  Maybe me?  Tell you what … let's do it together!

Copyright © 2003 by Jace Carlton

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Jace Carlton lives in the Nashville, TN area and is a member of NSAI.  A Freelance Writer / Photographer, Poet, Author, and former Radio DJ, he now enjoys a career as a Songwriter, and a collaborator much in demand predominantly in the Country genre, but also enjoys occasionally writing for A/C, Pop, R&B, Smooth Jazz, and Cabaret.  As a Freelance Writer he has contributed reviews on new CD's to online newsletters and regularly contributed book and concert reviews along with personal commentary on the music industry to Nashville's Songwriter's Connection e-Zine.

Jace is also the creator of the Change Your Stars! website and its companion daily motivational / inspirational e-mail message that's read by over 14,000 people all over the world.  For a free subscription click here and you'll be added within 24 hours.  Privacy Statement

Comments regarding this review may be sent to Jace@jacecarlton.com

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